The only hotel in Culver City is a boutique hotel aptly named The Culver Hotel. Built in the 1920s by Terry Culver, this National Historic Landmark stands out amongst the revitalized Culver City and makes for a unique historic dining and lodging experience not to be missed.
Few places, if any, places can claim to have seen Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin and the Wizard of Oz Munchkins pass through its doors. As such, The Culver Hotel has earned its spot in Culver City as an iconic historical building. Every room of the hotel has been restored and remodeled to pay homage to the history of Culver City and to transport guests back in time with an elegant touch. Unlike other historic buildings which have been gutted and then redesigned to suit modern needs, the Culver Hotel, a classic flatiron building, preserves the original architecture and layout of the building. Terry Culver’s office (used briefly by Eisenhower while campaigning for President in 1952) sits adjacent to his walk-in money vault. The money vault was victim to an unsuccessful robbery attempt during Culver’s time as owner; as a result, a large gaping three foot hole in the concrete was left in the wall. The hole is still there, complete with the exposed metal bars, and now the money vault has been repurposed to be a fully functioning bar for banquets.
During the filming of the Wizard of Oz, due to the hotel’s proximity to the Sony (then MGM) Studios, the 124 actors who played the Munchkins stayed in the hotel. In order to not attract attention on the street during their commute to the nearby backlot, they utilized an underground tunnel that ran from the hotel to studio (which had also been used to transport alcohol during Prohibition). Today, pictures of the film can be found throughout the hotel to honor these and other cinematic guests.
The hotel has had many owners since its completion in the 1920s, including both Charlie Chaplin and John Wayne. Legend has it that John Wayne won the hotel from Charlie Chaplin during a poker game. The current owner, Myra Malick, has brought her own style to the décor and furnishings gracefully incorporating the past with the present. Pictures of Culver City in the 1920s line the elevator and on many walls. Black and white rooms with crystal chandeliers, mirrors, and white flowers pay homage to a time when the movies were black & white, the drinks strong, and the jazz hot.
The hotel has 2 master suites and 4 junior suites plus 40 standard rooms. All the rooms have been remodeled with renovations completed in the past year. Throughout the rooms, unique fixtures and design blend with the historical architecture to create a space unlike any other. The hotel also offers an after midnight rate on many nights should you get a bit too caught up in the food and drinks to go home.
Stepping off the street into the main lobby (and dining area) of the Culver Hotel is to step back in time. Black & white movies are projected on the wall, jazz fills the air, and food and drink abound. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served here so whether you want to come in to have a full meal or a share a bite with friends and a drink, this is the place. A not-to-be-missed starter is the Crawfish & Lobster Dip with generous chunks of fish mixed into melted garlic flavored mozzarella and served with homemade pita chips. The popular Short Ribs entrée drew attention every time it was brought into the room and served sizzling on an iron skillet. The ribs are roasted for four hours and served with potatoes and brussel sprouts that literally melt in your mouth. If beef is not to your liking, the Sea Bass is equally delicious and is served in a spicy broth with charred kale. To finish, save room for rich and creamy Bailey’s chocolate mousse.
The focus of the Culver Hotel’s dining is the drinks. Whether you enjoy a cocktail at the bar in the main lobby or in the upstairs, tucked away Velvet Lounge, the art of the cocktail is alive and well. Each Prohibition Cocktail on the menu is accompanied by the history of the drink or its ingredients. Popular concoctions include Southside Limeade, a modern twist on the classic drink named after the 1920s mob-run Southside of Chicago, and has Ketel One Citroen shaken with lime, muddled mint, and cucumber served elegantly in a martini glass. The Ward Eight, named after the area of Boston that was fiercely loyal to anti-Prohibition legislation, blends Bulleit Bourbon and Pama Liqueur with citrus. And not to be missed is the Prohibition Punch with Absolut Vodka, Prosecco, Orange Curacao, passion fruit and lemon; not too sweet and not too sour, this is a perfectly balanced after work drink. The hotel does offer a happy hour daily from 4:00pm-7:00pm with discounted drinks and small bites available. Then at 7:30pm, the live jazz starts every day (except Sunday when Salsa music takes over the lobby). And if it all becomes too much, there is a taxi phone next to the door to get you home. So sit back, watch an old movie, sip a cocktail, and get a feel for what Culver City must have been like in the Roaring Twenties.
9400 Culver Boulevard,
Culver City, CA 90232
Reservations: 1-888-3 CULVER
This article first appeared in Locale Magazine.